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MTS wins award for 10-digit dialing project

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A 30-month project that paved the way for the switch to 10-digit local telephone numbers and the introduction of a second provincial area code has been named Manitoba's best-managed project for 2013.

The MTS New Area Code Project beat out one other contender -- a one-year pilot project that dramatically reduced emergency room stays for seniors -- for this year's award.

This is the first time since the local chapter of the Project Management Institute (PMI Manitoba) began presenting the award in 2005 that so few submissions were received. Last year, there were six, and three years ago there were 11, said Kathie Allardyce, chairwoman of PMI Manitoba's Project of the Year committee.

"We do know there were a few projects that were going to be submitted, but they didn't get them finished until January," she said, adding the deadline was Dec. 31.

There were also a couple of others where the work was done on time, but the documentation wasn't completed.

"We've already heard from four or five groups, who have said they plan to submit for next year. So we're looking at this as hopefully a temporary thing."

The MTS entry was a joint project by MTS Allstream Inc. and InScope Project Management & Consulting Inc., which was brought in to manage the project. InScope president Azhar Laldin said the project was completed by last November, when 10-digit local numbers and the new 431 area code officially came into effect.

He said even though it was the first project of its kind in Manitoba, they were still able to complete it about half the usual time -- 30 months instead of 60.

And they came in about eight per cent under budget, said Mike Strople, MTS Allstream's chief technology officer.

Strople said one of the biggest challenges was the sheer volume of work involved. Thousands of programming changes had to be made to MTS's 32 core network switching centres and its more than 500 secondary switching nodes. Each centre and node had to be assessed, reconfigured and then tested to make sure everything was working correctly.

Another challenge was the complexity of the teleco's network switching operations. Having more than one area code in the province was never contemplated when some of the older rural switching nodes were designed and built, Strople said, so they required a different type of upgrade than the newer centres.

"So getting all of this done in 2 1/2 years really required a lot of focus," he said, adding more than 200 people worked on the project.

The second entry was the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's Virtual Wards project.

The PMI said the one-year pilot project involved a multidisciplinary team that included a doctor, a nurse and a home-care co-ordinator using a "virtual ward" model to see if it could reduce the length of stay of seniors who had spent 24 hours or more in a hospital emergency ward.

The model involved transferring patient care traditionally provided in hospitals into the community. The team was able to not only reduce the length of hospital stays by about 50 per cent, but also the number of "presentations" to an emergency ward by 58 per cent and the number of admissions by 60 per cent.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 8, 2013 B4


Updated on Friday, March 8, 2013 at 9:25 AM CST: corrects that 200 people worked on the project

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